United Airlines Holdings Inc has announced that its workers who haven’t been vaccinated against Covid-19 for religious or medical reasons will be allowed to return at the end of this month to resume their jobs. The change allows workers who have exemptions from the carrier’s vaccination mandate for its U.S. employees to return from unpaid leave or non-customer-facing roles.
United said in August of last year that its 67,000 U.S. employees will be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19 or face termination, making it one of the first U.S. firms to do so. It had stated that it dismissed over 200 workers who rejected immunization and said they would not be reinstated. The condition was accepted by an overwhelming portion of the airline’s personnel.
Another 2,200 employees said they could not be vaccinated due to religious or medical reasons. Unless they applied for non-customer-facing positions, these employees were often forced on unpaid leave. They will be allowed to resume their previous positions on March 28, according to the airlines latest announcement.
According to one of the sources, “newly recruited employees would still be required to get vaccinated”.
President Biden praised the airline’s decision, but it also became a lightning point for criticism among other legislators, notably Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. United CEO Scott Kirby has stated that he feels the policy was a key safety precaution that prevented a series of staff deaths.
Most other major U.S. airlines did not go as far as United in enforcing vaccination mandates, opting instead to transfer, reassign, or place personnel on leave.
United has stated that it will consider case rates and community Covid-19 transmission levels when deciding whether to allow unvaccinated personnel to return and that it will re-evaluate those measures every 30 days.
The airline’s decision to allow the employees back which, may yet be reversed if conditions change, coincides with a drop in Covid-19 cases since the winter’s Omicron-driven rise.